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Personal Conversation Topics in Business Settings

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

Have you ever been asked to give personal information when meeting someone for the first time? What did you say? Do you think you communicated clearly and effectively? This lesson will explore the details of personal conversations in a business setting.

Talking Business

You've probably heard the saying: 'Never mix business with pleasure.' While you obviously wouldn't divulge highly personal information in a business setting, sometimes it's hard to know where to draw the line.

While working, you may have many opportunities to discuss personal topics in business settings. These conversations include giving personal details, describing your job responsibilities and talking about your company. You may be asked to give some of these details when someone asks you specific questions about your job and your company, such as at an industry conference or other networking event.

Let's look how to appropriately address personal conversation topics in business settings.

Giving Personal Details

When you give personal details, it's very important to share appropriate information. For instance, it's usually inappropriate to talk about family details, your salary or to gossip about your coworkers and managers. Some of the most common personal details you can share include:

  • Your name
  • The name and location of your company
  • Your job title
  • A description of the work you do

As you read the following scenario, pay special attention to the words and phrases each person uses.

Scenario

Jane Smith and Robert Jones are meeting for the first time at an engineering convention. Robert has just finished giving a presentation.

  • Jane: Hello, Mr. Jones. My name is Jane Smith, and I'm an engineer at Johnson Scientific.
  • Robert: It's nice to meet you, Jane. I know many people at Johnson Scientific. What department do you work in there?
  • Jane: I used to work in the medical devices division in Chicago, but I transferred to the renewable energy department near San Francisco last year.
  • Robert: Oh really? What are you working on now?
  • Jane: We're working on a new type of battery for cell phones.
  • Robert: Sounds fascinating.

You'll notice that Jane told Robert her name, her job title, the name of her company and the city she works in. She also mentioned the project she is currently working on. When you introduce yourself to another person in a business setting, it's important to give some personal information, but not too much. For example, Jane shouldn't say how much she gets paid, where she went to school, whether she is married or if she has children. This type of personal information is not appropriate to talk about when you meet someone for the first time.

Describing Jobs and Responsibilities

When you describe your job to someone, it can be helpful to give your job title. If the other person works in the same industry or has a very similar job, you may want to provide a few more details. However, be careful not to give too many details. Otherwise the person you are speaking to may become bored. Also, it's never appropriate to share proprietary company information. Remember, first impressions are important, so always try to leave a first meeting with the other person thinking well of you.

Describing a Company

If you have the opportunity to describe your company, try to focus on the primary details that the other person will be interested in. This includes:

  • The name of the company
  • The products or services the company provides
  • The location of the company
  • How many people work there
  • How long you have worked there
  • Other significant information you think is valuable to share

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